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Driver charged in passenger's death after car crashes into Kettle River

Preston Paul Prokasky Photo: Pine County Jail
Preston Paul Prokasky

Updated: September 18, 2019 03:27 PM

A person has been charged with criminal vehicular homicide after a passenger died when a car crashed into the Kettle River earlier this week.

The Pine County Sheriff's Office said the driver of the vehicle was formally charged Wednesday with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide. The driver was identified as Preston Paul Prokasky, of Willow River.

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1 dead after car crashes into Kettle River

Officials said 47-year-old Eugene John Oestreich, of Willow River, died in the incident. The medical examiner's office has listed his preliminary cause of death as drowning.

A criminal complaint states Pine County deputies were called to the Kettle River Monday in the area of 80124 River Run Road in Willow River. When deputies arrived, no vehicle was visible in the river, but two men were spotted near the bank of the river.

When a deputy asked the men what happened, one of the men, later identified as Prokasky, said he was driving his 2004 Ford Escape with Oestreich in the front seat and the other man in the back seat. 

The complaint states Prokasky told the deputy he decided to drive across the river, but didn't realize it was so deep. When the car started to sink, he and the other man climbed out a window, but Oestreich never made it out.

Prokasky later told investigators, according to the complaint, that Oestreich was his friend and had been living with him until the previous night when he had kicked Oestreich out. He also said Oestreich rolled up his window as they drove into the water and said he couldn't swim. Prokasky said the three of them were using methamphetamine earlier in the day, the complaint states.

The complaint states the car was later located in about 14 feet of water, and Oestreich was inside and pronounced dead.

Prokasky made his initial court appearance Wednesday and is due back on Sept. 24.

Each count of criminal vehicular homicide carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both.

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